HomeWorldMaha: Multiplexes pull in crowds with with discounts

Maha: Multiplexes pull in crowds with with discounts

Mumbai: Multiplexes and theatres reopened on Friday after nearly a year to relatively sparse crowds, except for those movie halls that had offers and freebies for audiences.
One of the reasons was Covid guidelines issued by the government. Besides temperature checks and green ticks on the Aarogya Setu app, some patrons had to furnish vaccine certificates and adapt to the new normal, given that theatres were allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
At a Borivli multiplex, a very disappointed teenager walked away from the box office with his mother on being denied entry as he was underage, despite the government not mandating any such requirement.
To draw in audiences, some multiplexes had free morning shows, a few threw in a free tub of popcorn per ticket purchased and others had heavily discounted ticket prices. “We were almost sold out for morning shows across all our multiplexes in Maharashtra. The overall turnout during the day has been reminiscent to the pre-Covid days and we are certain that the sentiment would remain like this,” said Rajeev Patni, COO, Inox Leisure.
Siddhesh, a Thane-based engineering graduate, turned up at least 15 minutes early to catch the 9.55am show of the latest James Bond movie. “I’m here for the experience,” said Siddhesh while waiting for three of his friends.
While Pooja Parikh, who caught a morning show of the new Marvel movie at Nariman Point, said it’s important to follow safety protocols, she accepted the inability to ask friends in the adjacent seat about complex movie scenes and the prospect of eating her movie staple—cheese popcorn— in the foyer as minor trade-offs for the communal viewing experience. Four 20-something students converged at a Borivli movie hall after “much research” as only selected movie halls were screening the Marvel movie and the group “had not missed a single one till date”.
These two movies are the only releases that are drawing audiences for now, according to box office staff. Some multiplexes like Carnival Cinemas have opened fewer properties at present because of limited content available. “We are confident that footfall will increase on November 5 when we have two big-ticket releases. We plan to throw open all our properties then,” said Prashant Kulkarni, senior vice-president, sales marketing, Carnival Cinemas.
Multiplex managements said that audiences appeared more comfortable with stepping out now as compared to last year.
“When we had reopened cinemas for a short spell in October-November 2020, some guests were apprehensive about using washrooms. Now, masking up and sanitizing have become a way of life. Besides, our staff are 100% vaccinated and that inspires confidence,” said a multiplex owner.
Single screens did not share the same experience as multiplexes. At Thane’s Vandana talkies, the larger-than-life crow sculpture that welcomes visitors, seemed desolate. The theatre was among the single-screens in the city that remained shut. Nitin Datar of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India stated that some single-screens are waiting for the big releases to reopen their gates and fortunes. Among those that reopened were Maratha Mandir, whose manager noted a drop in footfalls for their longest-running 11am show. “Vaccine,” answered the monosyllabic manager when asked for the reason for this dip.
Despite the lukewarm first-day-first-show turnout and the dwindling single-screens though, film critic Dilip Thakur remained optimistic. “The craze for films and cricket will never die.”
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